Marvel's Spider-Man might remind gamers of the combat in the Batman: Arkham series, but it reminds me of the Spider-Man game released in 2000, a quality superhero title by Neversoft late in the PlayStation's life cycle that showed off what the console was capable of.
This webslinger version, by Insomniac Games, does the same. And while it is reminiscent of those titles and others, it forges its own superior path instead of just being derivative. Navigation, combat, story, crime-fighting, puzzles and even photo mode combine for an entertaining superhero game.
Characters to begin with have depth and relatively complicated motivations. (SPOILERS:) Otto Octavius and Peter Parker don't stray far from convention early on (I'm only 23% into the campaign), but Aunt May volunteers at a shelter, Mary Jane Watson's intrepid reporter risks her life, shelter director Martin Li dissuades her investigation, and Shocker appears vulnerable and compromised.
The layers of characterization are complemented by gameplay depth. Navigation (a highlight) is fluid, intuitive and satisfying, whether swinging from webs, using web zips, climbing or otherwise scaling buildings, including to unscramble surveillance towers that reveal districts/crimes (similar to Far Cry) or finding backpacks for tokens to upgrade suits (like orbs in Crackdown).
Combat in general is likewise entertaining, using various acrobatic melee and stealth (as well as web) attacks and evasive moves that flow easily from one to another and, in fact, are reminiscent of the Batman Arkham games. Though this title helpfully adds web attacks to bind ranged foes, and different suits (with unique powers) and respective mods to add or improve offensive/defensive capabilities.
Suits can be crafted or modded with tokens earned completing various tasks including fighting crime, completing challenges, defeating enemy strongholds, solving minigames (i.e. involving circuitry, spectrographs), etc., all of which can be entertaining in their own right and help break up gameplay, including within each category of task.
For instance, crimes can involve such activity as kidnapping, robbery, burglary and chases. The first entails tracking down the victim, the second and third include taking on gangs of thugs, and the fourth involves catching up to getaway cars. All are fun and even the robbery/burglary can result in chases that can be exhilarating when webslinging through the city.
My only issue thus far, however, has been with repetitive gameplay, and I'm supposedly only one-fifth through the story. Of course the game is much more expansive than just the story missions, and I have yet to really undertake challenges or unlock higher level combos and suit powers. But in the meantime, I find myself craving more task, crime and minigame variety.
That said, my level 11 Spidey has unlocked all districts, is using the Stark suit with Spider Bot suit power and ballistic inserts, gel padding and combat analyzer suit mods. Spidey skills are 66% Innovator (besides Defender, Webslinger), using weapon yanks, takedowns and throwing. The depth of abilities/combos and suit powers/mods/gadgets are impressive and should add tremendously to the gameplay.
Last but not least is the photo mode, one of my fave modes in any title. In this game, it's taken to a new level with a variety of quality filters, stickers, frames, etc. that elevate the already impressive presentation with customization options for improved dramatic or even comedic effect. I've sunk a large amount of my game time into that mode alone.
All told, the sheer variety of options, the fluid and intuitive gameplay, the terrific production values and quality storytelling add up to an entertaining title that is one of the best superhero games. The one caveat are some gameplay elements that verge on being repetitive, but hopefully the deep skillset, mods and gadgets will offset any such concerns.
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